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GOP pushes back on ag cuts

DANIEL LOOKER 09/20/2011 @ 11:05am Business Editor

Republican agricultural leaders in Congress are rejecting most of President Barack Obama’s proposed spending cuts for agriculture.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, put out a statement late Monday criticizing proposed cuts to crop insurance subsidies in the President’s debt plan.

“The President’s policy priorities reveal a lack of knowledge of production agriculture and fail to recognize how wholesale changes to farm policy would impact the people who feed us,” Lucas and Roberts said. “For example, cutting $8 billion from the crop insurance program puts the entire program at risk. We have heard again and again from producers that crop insurance is the best risk management tool available. In jeopardizing this program, the President turns a deaf ear to America’s farmers.  Meanwhile, SURE has not worked as intended for most crops, but the President proposes extending it.  The President only proposes a $2 billion cut, roughly three percent, to conservation despite his claim that conservation spending has increased 500 percent through the years.  And, the President does nothing to address waste, fraud, abuse, and other integrity issues within nutrition programs, which account for 80 percent of USDA spending.”

They didn’t address the White House proposal to end the direct payment program.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who also serves on the ag committee, said he’s concerned that cuts to crop insurance might affect service to farmers and reduce participation in the program.

“It really hits agriculture just when it’s dealing with weather conditions unseen for many years,” Grassley said.

Grassley said that during his town meetings with constituents this summer, farmers told him they understood that direct payments might be cut but that they said crop insurance is a vital program.

“The government ought to promote management of risk,” Grassley said.

Grassley said that he knows the SURE permanent disaster program has had problems in the way it has been implemented but it might be less costly than Congress voting on ad hoc disaster bills instead.

“At this point, I’m not for throwing out SURE, unless there’s a consensus for throwing it out, and I don’t think there will be,” he said.


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